Assessing Your HR Service Delivery model as a System

The most common mistake made by those responsible for managing an operation or organization, no matter how big or small, is local optimization. In other words, defining, managing and measuring the success of parts instead of the whole. 

In defense of those guilty, the bureaucratic management model under which most organizations run drives, indeed demands, local-optima thinking.

Individually, we know better. As insightful people, we intuitively understand that the performance of the parts does not necessarily translate into performance of the whole, and in fact at times the opposite is true. But we don't know what to do about it. At the end of the day (or performance cycle, to the point) we're held accountable for and measured based on the performance of our part. The bureaucratic model, which is essentially a hierarchy of parts, basically guarantees this.

the holistic imperative

When all or most of the parts work poorly local-optima thinking does work, because improving the parts truly does improve the whole. But once you've got all the parts working well achieving higher levels of performance requires understanding and optimizing how they work together. That's what HRSSI's Service Delivery System Assessment helps you do.

Please note that organizations completing the most recent HR Service Delivery Practices Survey, whether open or not, in advance of an HR Service Delivery System Assessment will receive a $500 reduction on fees for that engagement. Because the survey includes baseline questions that otherwise would be included in the assessment, HRSSI saves time and passes those savings to clients.

The SDS Subsystems and areas of focus


Do not think of people as individual human beings. While individuals do of course impact the performance of the overall system, sometimes dramatically, people come and go. Systemically, therefore, people refers to how roles, relationships, expectations and measures are designed. The Service Delivery System Audit therefore looks at the people subsystem in this way, exploring:

  • Are roles designed with the appropriate level of specialization vs. generalization to achieve efficiency in the context of inherent variation in demand and circumstances?
  • Do jobs as designed allow for sufficient intrinsic motivation and satisfaction to sustain desired performance levels?
  • How closely are role requirements and incumbent qualifications aligned?
  • Do career paths, both internal and external, foster short- and long-term engagement? 


The process subsystem refers to the way in which work gets done. In other words, who does what and how. Processes define how people function and interact. Processes also define tool requirements (or vice versa).  Therefore, the process subsystem can be considered heart the system as a whole because it is so highly integrated with the other parts. The assessment examines:

  • Using HRSS's lean waste taxonomy, how much waste is inherent in current process designs?
  • What specific and major undesirable effects (e.g., errors, delays, customer dissatisfaction, staff turnover) can be directly attributed to correctable process flaws?
  • How generally evident is process discipline (consistency, improvement culture, etc.) in the management of the operation?


As mentioned above, tools can drive process. This is increasingly the case with automated workflow functionality. Tools also drive people skills requirements. While conventional wisdom supposes that tools should not drive process, rather the opposite, in practice tools, people and process are completely entwined and interdependent. The assessment, therefore, looks at:

  • What critical technology gaps must be addressed to improve processes?
  • Considering technologies available in the marketplace, how well is the operation technologically enabled?
  • Considering technologies that have been procured, how well have these been leveraged relative to their potential benefits?


Managers who underestimate the importance of the service delivery environment do so at great peril. The environment includes the organization's culture, economic situation, leadership and so on. An assessment that does not explicitly consider environmental implications is not merely incomplete; it is irresponsible.